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Virtual Field Trip Introduces Kids to Addiction

Theaters. Art museums. Courtrooms. Aquariums. Planetariums. State capitals. What do these things have in common? They are typical destinations for high school field trips. Educational, interesting and fun, they have much to offer curious adolescents.

They are a stark contrast to the latest destination added to the list. The DEA and Discovery Education have implemented a new field trip initiative. Their idea: Take teens on a “virtual field trip” to addiction.

The goal is to teach teens about “the dangers of addiction by showing them the science behind opioid use, in classrooms across the country.”

Trying a New Approach

DEA administrator Chuck Rosenberg admits many teen anti-drug messages are met with eye- rolls. The hope is that this new approach will break through teen cynicism and make an impact.

Virtual field trip to addiction, A man holding drug pills in handBill Goodwyn, chief executive of Discovery Education, explains:

“It’s not a one-off assembly where you’ll have a speaker come in once a quarter or once a semester. It’s actually part of the core curriculum.” The program features classroom materials, free videos and a student video contest that “allows students to educate their peers about drug abuse.”

One of the aims of this program is to curb the growing belief among teens that prescription drugs are safe. Just because they’re found in the home medicine cabinet doesn’t mean they aren’t addictive and potentially lethal. And the program communicates these truths in the context of science.

Students at Fairfax County’s McLean High School were the first to experience this new curriculum. The program began with a panel made up of one scientist, a recovering addict, an assistant principal and a DEA agent. The panel spoke with high school biology students, focusing on the science behind addiction and what it does to your brain and behavior. Students then asked the panel questions, which were submitted by teens across the country.

Is This Approach Effective?

The program received mixed reviews from students. Some felt it was too scripted and impersonal, but a majority of them agreed that hearing a panel member’s personal experience made it “much more personal than getting it on a PowerPoint presentation and taking notes and taking a quiz about it.” Others were moved by one panel member’s recovery testimony, but felt the science portion of the program was too fast-paced and confusing.

These results are typical of any teen-focused program. Why? Because all teens are not alike. No one approach will make an impact on every adolescent. That’s why, when it comes to educating teens about addiction and its dangers, we must have a full arsenal of tools – and this new virtual program gives us one more.